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Understanding Evolution updates

For those of you who frequent the UCMP's Understanding Evolution (UE) website, there is both a familiarity and a disconnect with the image below. Yes, that is part of our module on homologies and analogies, it just happens to be in Turkish! With many thanks to our friends and colleagues at Bogaziçi University in Istanbul, the Understanding Evolution website is being translated into Turkish, and we will soon be able to link to this version from the UE home site … and links to versions in Portuguese and Spanish will not be far behind! Unanticipated by us, the UE site has gathered a large and growing international audience. As both interest in and threats to the teaching of evolution have expanded its borders, many of our institutions abroad have found that UE can provide the effective content and teaching resources that they are looking for.

Portion of Turkish UE page

This has perhaps best been expressed by a wonderful email received from Dr. Manuel Soler, Professor at the Universidad de Granada, and President of the Spanish Society of Evolutionary Biology: "One of the most important objectives of our society (founded in September 2005), was to create a web page in order to facilitate the teaching of evolution in Spain. When we started to look for information in the web we realized with great satisfaction that such a page had been created already: simply designed, easy and intuitive navigation and with great content! It was your page "Understanding evolution for teachers", in our opinion, a fantastic resource for teaching evolution. Thus, it would be a waste of time and resources to create another one. For this reason I am writing you on behalf of the present Council of SESBE in order to ask for permission to translate your page into Spanish." We were more than delighted to grant this request and to send the necessary files of the site off to Spain for their use.

We have been surprised by the number of other requests received from individuals beyond the U.S. These include use of UE resources for:

  • In classes on evolution for Chilean students
  • A speech by a Professor of Biology at Kýrýkkale University given at a scientific meeting to introduce the cladistic analysis methods, "which are not yet well known in Turkey."
  • For a thesis on typology and evolution by a postgraduate student of Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, whose request included the following compliment: "I found your Evolution 101 very useful, especially for general readers. I found that it is a job carried off with real panache."

Although the UE site was originally funded by the NSF and built with the K12 audience in mind, additional funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute allowed us to expand the site to provide resources for a broader audience. We are thrilled by its growing international popularity and also pleased that the UE resources are proving to be so useful for undergraduate teaching. As a result, we will be developing an "undergraduate wing" to our resources in early 2008. A small sample of recent requests that we have received include:

  • Use portions of our text and graphics for lectures and non-profit handouts for the Spring 2008 semester for the Geology 102 Historical Geology course at the University of Idaho.
  • To use site materials as a resource for an introductory biology course for majors at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.
  • To use in a macroevolution course in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University to teach about building phylogenies and interpreting/understanding cladograms.
  • To use in a course called "Heredity, Society and Evolution" at Ohlone Community College.

Other recent requests for use of UE resources include:

  • To use the research profile on Jennifer McElwain as a teaching resource in the Travelin' Trunks on climate being developed by the Petrified Forest National Park.
  • To use in a course entitled "Teaching Evolution in the 21st Century," part of WGBH's Teachers Domain project.

Understanding Evolution continues to grow in both content and audience. We are firmly committed to maintaining the integrity of this site and are very thankful not only for those who have sent messages of appreciation, but in particular for those of you who have offered financial support for the site. As the UE site currently has no external funding source, we welcome this assistance.